Looking for the perfect groundcover? Need to replace a shrub or tree?
The new Nifty 50 brochure has you covered. One of the region’s most popular WaterSmart plant guides, Nifty 50 has been updated and distributed to local water agencies and conservation gardens by the San Diego County Water Authority as part of the agency’s long-running efforts to promote water-use efficiency. It includes 50 plants selected because they are attractive, readily available in retail nurseries, non-invasive and easy to maintain. Highlighted plants typically last for years, fit the scale of residential landscapes and – once established – tolerate drought.
“There are lots of opportunities to trim water use in and around the home,” said Jeff Stephenson, a principal water resources specialist at the Water Authority. “One important strategy is replacing water-loving plants with varieties that don’t require as much irrigation. The Nifty 50 brochure eases that process by offering a variety of attractive plants that thrive in San Diego County’s semi-arid climate.”
The Nifty 50 brochure is periodically updated to reflect changing plant preferences. The latest version includes perennials such as French lavender, groundcover such as trailing lantana, and trees such as sweet bay. The pamphlet also offers tips for reducing the amount of water used on landscapes, whether they are filled with conventional plants or drought-tolerant varieties.
Copies of the guide – complete with full-color photos of each plant – are free at the Water Authority’s headquarters in Kearny Mesa and at the offices of its 24 member agencies. They also are available at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas and the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, both of which display several of the highlighted plants. For an electronic version of the guide, go to WaterSmartSD.org, the Water Authority’s web portal for promoting water-use efficiency. Click on the news item about the guide and then on the image of the Nifty 50 brochure.
The website offers several other options for increasing water conservation at homes, businesses, homeowner associations and public agencies. Resources include rebates for purchasing water-efficient appliances and devices, incentives for replacing lawns with low-water landscapes, WaterSmart landscape makeover classes, tips for trimming water use indoors and outdoors, and inspirational ideas for other water-wise improvements.
Water-saving actions are more important than ever because of statewide drought conditions. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought-related state of emergency Jan. 17 and asked for voluntary water conservation statewide after two consecutive dry years and the start of a third. May 1 figures from the final manual snow survey of the season by the Department of Water Resources showed the statewide snowpack water content was just 18 percent of the historical average, and the State Water Project is projected to meet just 5 percent of requested deliveries in 2014.
In February, the Water Authority’s Board formally activated the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan and approved notifying the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the region’s Model Drought Response Ordinance. As part of the drought response plan, the Water Authority launched its “When in Drought” campaign in April to encourage increased conservation across the region. Details are at whenindrought.org.
The Water Authority is not anticipating cutbacks to its imported water supplies this year that would trigger mandatory supply cutbacks to its member agencies. The region’s improved water supply reliability is the result of adequate reservoir storage in Southern California, strong regional water conservation practices and two decades of investments by the San Diego region to diversify its water supply sources.
Diversification measures include securing water transfers that are part of the historic 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. The Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water conservation-and-transfer agreement and related canal-lining projects will provide 180,000 acre-feet of highly reliable supplies to the San Diego region this year, more than double the amount they provided at the start of the last drought in 2007. (An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two average single-family households of four people for a year.)
In addition, the Water Authority has invested $2 billion over the past decade in new, large-scale water infrastructure projects that are contributing to a more reliable water supply. The Carlsbad Desalination Project, now under construction, is another important element of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy to improve the San Diego region’s water supply reliability. Starting as early as fall 2015, the project is expected to deliver up to 56,000 acre-feet of drought-proof, highly reliable water each year, enough for about 112,000 households.
Potable water use in San Diego County has decreased significantly since 2007, and local cities and water districts are on pace to meet their state-mandated water-efficiency targets for 2020.